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2014-2015 Award Winners: Pocket LED Projectors

Posted on May 8, 2014 by Art Feierman

We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year's Best Classroom Projectors report.

The mix of projectors included in this year’s report – for the 2014-2015 School Year, required us to rethink the awards for this year.  We have picked out seven of the 18 projectors for awards.   We certainly could have picked even more, considering we were rather selective in deciding what projectors were suitable for review.

This year we decided to give serious consideration to lightweight “pocket” projectors of minimal size for use by teachers who travel from school to school, class to class…

We reviewed five of these LED pocket projectors, and have two awards:

Asus P2B: Best In Classroom - Field Portable Projector

The P2B may be the least expensive of the “pocket” projectors we reviewed.  It also claimed to be the least bright, but proved to be especially capable.  This 1.4 pound projector comes with a separate power brick, but it also has an internal battery that Ron reports is good for about 90 minutes of presenting.  It’s battery operation is its uniqueness in this year’s projector report, but not its only strength.  Consider that with a claimed 350 lumens it had to compete with two 500 lumen, and 800 lumen and a 1000 lumen projector.

The Asus P2B managed around 270 lumens on AC power, in brightest mode, but served up some pretty good color right at 250 lumens.  Switching to battery, that same good looking Standard mode dropped to 191 lumens still almost double any other pocket projector we’ve tested, running on batteries.

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The thing is, the brightest two of these five projectors managed only high 600’s and low 700 lumens in their brightest modes which had particularly poor color.  Neither were able to do even 500 lumens with good color (more like 400 and change), so despite claims, the Asus holds up reasonably well in brightness.  A step down from the others, but still very usable.  Like the others it offers a powerful set of media players to do Microsoft Office documents, pdfs, videos and stills.  A micro-SD card slot and USB make running PC free presentations easy.

So, although not the brightest around, it’s aggressive pricing, and especially it’s battery capabilities and WXGA resolution make it an excellent choice for that teacher needing a small projector for field trips, or anywhere where electric isn’t 100% guaranteed. Perhaps the real appeal is in rural environments around the world, but it’s a very capable small led projector, and one with a two year warranty compared to the 1 year most competitors provide.  An easy choice.

Optoma ML550: Best in Classroom - Portable Projector

This was the surprise of the group.  While priced aggressively it claims 500 lumens and has to slug it out, feature set wise, with other WXGA projectors at 500, 800 and 1000 lumens.  Turns out though, that in brightness, Optoma was the most conservative, and as it turns out, unless selecting a “brightest mode” with poor color, none of the other projectors in this group measured significantly brighter.

The ML550 was the lightest projector of the five, the only one under 1lb. but with its power brick, it still is a two pound package.   No one’s going to complain about a usable 441 lumens with respectable color (the ML550 did measure higher than it’s 500 lumen claim, in its brightest mode).  Like the others the ML550 is well endowed with player features supporting Microsoft Office, pdfs, and a large range of photo and video formats.

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The ML550 does support 3D, just add 3D glasses, but note, like many of these small projectors it does not support Blu-ray 3D (packed format).

Although the ML550 didn’t have any major advantages over the Acer, Vivitek or Canon, it sells for significantly less than any of those.  In other words with all but the Asus P2B, our Pocket projectors all measure in the 400 to 500 lumen range with good color.  The ML550 was as well endowed with features as any of the others, including support for MHL.  Although I prefer pocket projectors to have their power supplies built in, and favor the lower profile but larger footprint variety, the ML550 deserves this award for simply offering essentially all the features and performance of noticeably more expensive led projectors.

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